Tag: family (page 2 of 2)

Why is My Fetus Trying to Ride a Bike?

His first word was mama.

Actually, it was probably something more like mmm mmm mmm,  but I totally knew what he meant.  Soon, it became a clear ma  ma  with a cute little pause between the syllables. I loved hearing it.

I remember one time when he was six months old, his grandfather tried to hold him and carry him into another room to watch a football game. This decision was met with screams and tears. I took my baby back into my arms, and then, his little body filled with all the infant indignation he could muster, he looked right at his grandpa and shouted, “MA MA”  as though to say, How dare you take me out of sight of my mommy, you crazy man? He put his head on my shoulder, patted my back with his tiny hand, and whispered ma ma” to me next, reminding both he and I that this is where he belonged.

Ma ma soon turned into Mommy, which is my favorite word in the entire world… and that’s probably a good thing considering I hear it about a million times a day starting at 6:30 am.

It feels so good to be needed, to be loved so completely, to be honored with the title Mommy.

I remember watching the movie Father of the Bride and seeing Steve Martin see his daughter as a literal little girl. I’d heard older adults speak of their adult children and say things like, she’ll always be my baby. Before I became a parent, those things meant nothing to me. I thought, oh I can’t wait. I can’t wait to run and play and ride bikes together. I can’t wait to grow with him, to honor his stages of development.

And now, here we are and the stages are coming so fast… too fast; they are stacked on top of each other.  It seems like every time I close my eyes, I open them to a different child.

It feels like yesterday when he was only our “two-bite baby” (we used to track his growth as a fetus by how many bites we thought it would take to eat him, like how they sell brownies…) He was just a gray and white swirl in an ultrasound picture, and now he’s running, talking about kindergarten, and trying to ride a bike with no training wheels.

I’m breathless from trying so hard to catch each moment, to see each new thing… Yes, I tell him, a hundred times a day, Mommy’s watching – and I am, I really really am –

and then… and then… this fetus, this newborn… calls for me from the backseat and says, “hey, mom.”

MOM.

It went like this:

Kai: Hey, Mom
Me: What did you just call me?
Kai: Mom, it’s the first part of Mommy, I call you Mom sometimes now.

aaaaand that’s all I could hear because the rest was drowned out by the sound of my heart SHATTERING INTO A MILLION PIECES.

I know I’m technically his mother, even his mom. But, I’m his Mommy… there’s so much weight in that word, Mommy. He’s the only person in the world who can call me that. It’s his name for me; it’s who I see myself as now. Five years ago, I was Ava, just Ava. Now, I’m Ava+: I’m Kai’s mommy.

Moms make you dinner, buy you clothes, and drop you off at school.

Mommies are holders and kissers, boo boo healers, adventurers, puppet makers, night-night time story tellers, hand holders, and first loves.

I’m raising him to be independent. I’m raising him to be strong. I’m raising him to not need me so much, and that is harder than I could have ever imagined. It’s so hard to know that if I’ve done this job right that he will call me mom… I just didn’t think it would be so soon.

Inside I’m still ma ma, still mommy whispered in his sweet baby voice as he falls asleep holding my hand. But now, though I’m not ready, he is, and so I’m also his mom as he experiments with being a big boy, as he toys with independence.

Every night after he’s asleep I stare at the boy he has become: I see how tall and strong he is, how defined his chin looks, how big his hands are. And then, I do what I will do every single night that he lives with us, I lean in to kiss his forehead, stroke his hair… and then his mom whispers to him: my sweet baby, mommy loves you.

Optimus Prime vs the English Major

It was 6:30 am. 6:30 in. the. morning. It was dark outside. Birds were sleeping. I should have been sleeping… instead I was sitting in bed trying to shake off the delirium from having been awoken suddenly in the middle of a dream and trying to comprehend why I was holding a half transformed Optimus Prime toy. A few inches from my face were the big bright wide awake eyes of my four year old.
“Do it mommy! Transform him back into a truck!”

“Huh? What?”

“I need him to be a truck again. I made him a robot, but now he wants to be a truck.”

“Okay. Yeah.”

Optimus Prime waiting to be turned back into a truck at 6 am

I’d been parenting for five years – I wasn’t fazed. Of course my four year old was awake and in my face. Of course I needed to transform this toy right now before the sun came up.

I turned the toy over in my hands. I remember Transformers, I love robots, I can totally do this. I looked Optimus over with my bleary sleep deprived eyes. Hmm. I moved limbs, twisted pieces different directions. He was definitely transforming into something… but he looked less like a truck and more like an unfortunate robot that had had a run-in with a truck.

Oh crap. This was freaking hard. Kai was watching my every move and I could tell he was beginning to suspect the obvious. I could not transform this toy.

For those of you who are unaware: transformers are hard… like ridiculously hard. They are a 3” child’s toy that comes with a full page of instructions. A FULL PAGE. When we bought Optimus the day before, Paul was home. I saw him and Kai playing with it without issue and so I made a terrible mistake, I didn’t read the instructions.

Now, it was Monday and Paul had gone into work early. I was on my own with Kai and Optimus-the mangled truck bot-Prime. I was starting to panic a little. Then, in a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life, Kai looked up at me and said encouragingly, “Come on. Daddy can do it.”

What he was actually saying is: Daddy can do it. Why can’t you?

It was then that I realized that my vast amounts of education and advanced degrees from prestigious universities meant nothing. Kai was unimpressed. Knowledge is relative it seems. I may have studied the Didascalicon, and the works of Rousseau and Woolf. I may have written papers on the importance of Mozart’s operas, or wowed literary scholars when I compared Voltaire’s Candide to the plot structure found in a work of Russian literature. It didn’t matter; I now lacked the one skill that my son found valuable: transforming Japanese auto-bots.

I sent Paul a quick text message: “Omg. I can’t transform Optimus. Kai thinks I’m stupid. Please help me” and waited for inevitable “What’s really happening?” response text. I then set out to find the instructions for Optimus’ transformation. If there’s one thing my degrees DID teach me, it was how to look up weird obscure stuff on the internet.

Parenting is teaching me that the world that I thought I knew pre-child, and the skills I had developed based on that idea are vastly different from the ones that are of actual value to me now. Maybe one day I will again spend my time with academics who care about my opinions on which translation of Beowulf is the best, but for now, I need to learn to integrate my education with my actual knowledge. Education is most valuable when it transforms us into something that helps us to advance ourselves and those around us.

Maybe I should have studied the Didascalicon a little more closely. Hugh of St Victor felt that it is the integration of the different areas of knowledge that leads to human perfection. This is where children are the perfect teachers. Everything is one. For Kai, transforming a robot is as important of a skill as feeding him, reading, or writing. He hasn’t applied preconceived values to knowledge. The knowledge that will help him in the present is the most valuable.

And that’s another thing I’m learning from Kai. He is always present. Right here, in this moment, nowhere else. He worries little about the past or the future, but what his feelings and needs are right now. And right now, he needed me to transform his robot.

With a little help from obsessive Transformer fan forums, phone coaching from Paul, and some patient encouragement from my son, I eventually transformed Optimus back into a truck. I won’t lie, when I slid that last piece into place and saw the tiny truck in my hand… it felt freaking awesome.

My son, whom I am tasked with teaching, is teaching me. I’m learning what’s really important, I’m learning to be present, and more importantly I’m learning how to transform myself into what he needs.

**UPDATE: This essay was featured in the family section on BlogHer.com!  http://www.blogher.com/optimus-prime-vs-english-major

Save the Limes!

Yesterday I was sitting in the living room eating a protein bar. Kai was eyeing it so I asked him if he would like one too. He’s five now, so of course his answer wasn’t just “yes,” instead he told me to wait there and he would go to the kitchen by himself and get his own snack.

Of course.

Because being five means that you do everything yourself even the things you shouldn’t attempt and of course all of the things that make his father and I think, oh my god why is he trying to do that himself doesn’t he know he’s only five??  Independence is awesome. Bull headed independence with no experience or wisdom to back it up is terrifying. Five might give me a heart attack.

Kai went into the kitchen without turning on the light and headed towards what I thought was the pantry. Instead, I heard him moving along the counter and then a rustling near the bread basket, followed by the sound of shattering glass.

Paul and I had the millisecond look of shared terror before we both instinctively screamed “don’t move! don’t move!” into the dark kitchen while leaping up because we heard movement and gave each other the even more terrified oh my god he’s totally moving isn’t he?  face.

Already my mother brain was imagining all of the worst possible scenarios: a shoe-less five year old covered in broken glass, a trip to the ER, stitches, etc. What I didn’t expect to see was my five year old racing out of the dark kitchen… clutching two limes.

Huh?

He was visibly freaked out and panting, clutching these two limes as those his life depended on it. As we neared him he said, “I saved the limes! I knew this would happen and so I saved the limes!!”

What. the… huh?

I checked him over and fortunately he was wearing shoes. Shoes! Hurray for shoes! I don’t know why he was still wearing them. We had been home for nearly 30 minutes, and normally his clothes explode off of him the second we walk in the door. It’s kind of amazing really. I will be just setting down my keys and somehow he’s in his underwear. For some reason, he was still fully dressed. No cuts, no glass on him, he was okay… but the deal with the limes? I don’t know.

I hugged him to me (still clutching those limes), calmed him down, and told him we didn’t care about the glass, only his safety. He looked into my eyes with all the sincerity in the world and in his proudest voice told me, “I’m so happy I saved those limes.”

I nodded knowingly.

Paul asked him, “why did you get the limes, did you want to eat a lime?”

“No,” he said very matter-of-factly, “I wanted a protein bar, I just saved the limes.”

Right. Yes. The limes needed saving and he saved them.

I hugged him again and reminded him that when a glass breaks he should stand still and never run over it. Then I got him his protein bar (out of the pantry, not the bread basket) and sat him out of the way while we cleaned up.

Paul was sweeping and caught my eye, “limes?” he whispered.

I shrugged and we laughed hysterically.

I still don’t know what the deal is or was with the limes, but they now have a place on honor on the kitchen counter. These aren’t just any limes, these limes were saved.

Five, it seems, is going to be full of over confidence, near misses, and downright weirdness. It feels like when Kai first learned to walk: he charged forward and I scrambled around him clearing the path. He got to do the walking, I got to race around him making sure he didn’t fall and keep him safe. This is five: a big giant baby charging forward and me scrambling just out of sight letting him think he’s doing it all by himself.

I’m still learning about the insanity that is five. In the meantime there is something I do know for sure: in this house, the limes will always be safe.

The Bathroom Cheerleader

I was packing for a family trip back to Houston. The commencement ceremony for my Master’s degree was the next morning and I had decided to participate. I was torn between feelings of both pride at my accomplishment and dread at wearing the regalia when I heard a faint cry from my son’s bathroom.

“Mommy…. Mommy, I need you.”

I dropped the gown and hood and ran into his bathroom to find him sitting on the toilet looking pale.

“What’s wrong baby? Are you ok?”

“No,” he replied breathily like a solider just off the front line, “I can’t get the poo poo to come out; I need you to cheer for me.”

What?? He wanted me to cheer for him… to poop??

I stood stunned for a second. I was upset that my son was in obvious physical distress, but I was also beginning to feel the creeping dread that every parent knows quite well: my child is going to ask me to do something weird and uncomfortable that I wouldn’t want my friends to know about…and because I’m a good parent, I’m gonna do it.

I stood there silently for a moment and then asked him in a weak voice, “cheer? For you to poo poo?”

“Yes,” he whispered, “you know, the potty cheer,” and he started to sing it.

The dread sharpened. I now knew exactly what he was asking of me… and it was not awesome.

The Potty Cheer

Potty training didn’t come easy in our house. There was no “training” per se. Kai simply refused to use the toilet. Refused.

The whole “let children advance at their own rate” thing that Paul and I had practiced rapidly became, “oh my god what If we screwed up, why didn’t we teach him how to use a toilet, we are the worst parents ever and will be changing diapers on a grown man.”

Kai was always a bright and articulate child, the kid who flew past milestones months early: crawling at 5 months, walking at 9 months, and running away from us by his 1st birthday.  So, as a sort of cosmic balance, he refused to use the toilet at all until he was 3.5 years old. There was no “potty training.” He wouldn’t use the potty, and then one day he used it perfectly.

During those last few non-toilet weeks, Paul and I went a little crazy. We are not bathroom people, we don’t like potty humor, but having a kid who won’t use the toilet will break down the best of us. We became simply ecstatic about the bathroom, going on and on about how great it was to use the toilet, and how fun it would be to use the restroom in public. See? Crazy people.

One day, we were watching a cartoon called “The Mighty Bee” which has a super-fast intro song that repeats the words, “Bee, Bee, Bee, Bee.”  Later that day, when Paul had somehow convinced Kai to actually sit on the toilet, he started singing, “Kai’s gonna use the potty, he’s gonna Pee, Pee, Pee, Pee.” And that, it seems, made a huge impact on Kai. He didn’t use the potty that day, but apparently held onto that song, and labeled it, The Potty Cheer.

So, here he was months later, requesting me to sing The Potty Cheer to help him. I was confused.

“Baby, isn’t that song about pee?”

“Yes,” he said, “but, I need you to sing it with poo.”

Right. Yes. Of Course. I need to sing about poo.

I sat down on the edge of the bathtub, ran my fingers through his hair, and gently sang to him, “Kai’s gonna use the potty, he’s gonna… poo, poo, poo, poo,” over and again until he felt better.

Nothing else mattered in that moment. I was about to have a Master’s degree conferred upon me the next day, I was being asked to submit applications for PhD programs, some of my work was being published… none of that mattered. Those things didn’t matter to Kai and they no longer mattered to me.

I was sitting on the edge of the bathtub singing to my little boy, cheering for him. He trusted me. He believed in me. He knew that I would help him feel better, that just the sound of my voice could fix his body. He knew it.

He didn’t think it or hope it, but he knew it –and that is powerful stuff – powerful, transformative stuff.

My son may have made me sing to him while he was on the toilet, but in return he makes me a better person. He makes me stronger, braver, more gentle, and yet, more fierce. When I am his mommy, I am not the awkward 30-something woman still trying to figure out adult life. I am not the scared and lost little girl I accuse myself of being all the time. I don’t need degrees or accolades to feel whole in his presence. He makes me whole through his trust and love… even when that trust equals bathroom singing.

I am his mommy, and I will sing at the top of my lungs in every bathroom in the world if he needs me to. I will sing songs about things that I would have sworn 5 years ago I would never sing about. I may feel silly or awkward later when I retell the story, but in that moment when he cries out, “Mommy, Mommy, I need you,” I will come running and I will cheer for him.

Getting to know me

Since this is a brand new blog, I thought my first post should give you a little background on me and my family. I think the only way to really do that is to post highlights of some of our actual conversations this year:

That one time we got to go on a date:

[Actual conversation on the patio at Whole Foods]

Me: Do you want the apple fritter or the carmelita? Hmm, that sounds like the name of a European call girl.

Paul: Apple Fritter?

Me: No, Carmelita. Apple Fritter sounds like the name of a trashy southern drag queen.

Paul: [husky southern drawl] My name is Apple Fritter and I want to thank y’all for coming on down here to see me at The Chicken Neck.


That time Paul tried to eat old food:

[Actual conversation in my kitchen]

Me: Is that plate of food from breakfast?

Paul: Yes, but it’s still good, I left it in the microwave.

Me: Umm, food still goes bad in there, the microwave does not stop the food from going bad. There is still air in there.

Paul: No, it’s sealed. Look, if it wasn’t there would be microwaves all up in your face every time you used it.

Me: Okay, I’m going to stop talking to you now.


That time our son realized I might be crazy:

[Actual conversation in our car]

Me (as we are driving past the library): Hey library, yes I know I have a book on hold, but I’m really tired. If you could just bring that to my house that would be great.

K: Are you talking to the library?

Me: [insane laughter] Umm, yeah.

K (as we drive past the gas station): Are you talking to the gas station now?

Paul: Great, now he thinks you’re insane.


And finally, just a typical morning chat with my husband about our future:

image

It’s a good life.

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